By Sandra L. Lee
Lewiston Morning Tribune
The steamboat Jean can't stay where it is near South Way Boat
Ramp because it's a liability for the nation's taxpayers,
Dutch Meier of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday
The corps is simply the property manager for the taxpayers,
he said. As representative and property manager, the corps
has to be careful of the risks that are passed down to the
the owner, Vernon Wilson of Lewiston, to keep the Jean adjacent
to the levee, another governmental entity would have to lease
a site from the corps and sublease it to Wilson. Subleases
are subject to corps approval, Meier said.
Meier, who is based at the corps' Walla Walla District headquarters,
and Rebecca Minor, resource manager at the Clarkston corps
office, visited the makeshift moorage Tuesday where the Jean
has been tied up for 11 months.
Minor gave Wilson permission last year to hold the 171-foot-long
boat there, inside the shoulder of the marina, until the Snake
River's level dropped enough to float beneath Interstate Bridge.
A year later, with water levels down and spring runoff approaching
again, the boat still is there.
Wilson, aided last May by several friends and jetboat operators,
used the high water to float the Jean out of the Asotin Marina
where a sandbar stranded it during most flows.
Last year's permission was in the spirit of neighborliness,
But it was never an enduring agreement, Meier added.
It was intended to be a week or two.
Now, they say, Wilson doesn't respond to attempts to contact
The Tribune was unable to reach Wilson Tuesday.
He contacted the city of Lewiston about 10 days ago, Parks
and Recreation Director Lynn C. Moss said. He was under the
impression the city was interested in leasing the small triangle
of land to the east of the Jean's bow. But the city is interested
in that only as part of a larger lease along the Snake River's
shore where the Lewiston Rotary is hoping to develop a park.
"I told him the city currently has no desire to be involved
in the preservation, operation, or maintenance of the steamboat
Jean," Moss said.
Wilson went to the Nez Perce County Commission Monday with
a similar request to help keep the Jean at or near where it
lies now by leasing property.
Commissioner Ronald Wittman said Tuesday the three commissioners
haven't talked about whether they want to go so far as writing
a letter to the corps about what would be involved.
At the county's waterways committee meeting Tuesday, another
corps employee said the Jean is damaging the levee because
the large concrete, Jersey barriers it is tied to are moving
and the gangplank to the boat has dug into the bank, Wittman
"We're always willing to talk about leases," Meier
said. "We're always interested in construction dialogue.
But it has to start with a formal proposal, he said.
At this point, Wilson has been sent a certified letter giving
him until May 6 to remove the Jean from corps property, and
he hasn't contacted anyone to talk about that, Meier said.
"Once we hear from him, that will be a moment that sort
of steers where the progress of this goes. It's important
to hear what he's got to say."
An option if Wilson doesn't contact the corps is a citation
into federal court. If that happens, the decision-making passes
to federal attorneys and the courts, Meier said.